The work of acceptance, inclusion and love

October 15, 2020 | by Mary Lou Mastro

At times, my family feels like a small microcosm of the country. We love each other dearly, yet we are diverse and disagree on a lot of issues.

There are seven of us on the family text chain — sometimes it’s enjoyable with lots of photos of us from birthdays or holidays. At other times it’s heated, emotional and results in one or two dropping off in a huff. Holidays and family gatherings are mostly joyous and fun, occasionally intense. Everybody wants to be heard; however, we don’t always listen well.

This is Us — This is My Family: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials; African American, Caucasian and Hispanic; devout Catholics and agnostics; liberals and conservatives; racial protesters and a Chicago police officer; North Siders (Cub fans) and South Siders (Sox fans); scientists and artists; thin crust and deep dish — I think you get the picture.

Make no mistake, there are many things we do agree on — the Chicago Blackhawks, baseball as the national past time, Schitt’s Creek, family vacations, outdoor activities, the love of ice cream, the importance of mental health, movies and popcorn, community service, Thanksgiving as a favorite holiday, and that the sun rises and falls with Ben (age 10) and Alex (age 7).

As the family matriarch, I always want peace, understanding and love within the family. I spend 1:1 time with the younger adults trying to help them see the other’s point of view. I ask them to demonstrate respect and inside voices with me as I challenge their perspectives. I do this because I want them to be able to have rational and civil discussions with each other. LOL — progress, not perfection.

My daughters were raised in the same family, with the same parents, in the same neighborhood. They attended the same schools, worshipped in the same church, and traveled on the same family vacations. But one daughter is white and one is black, and their lived experiences of belonging and inclusion growing up were profoundly different.

As parents and as a family we did the best we could — diverse schools, diverse faculty, diverse healthcare providers, diverse books, Kwanza celebrations, and so on. But there were so many factors that were out of our control.

We couldn’t always protect Chrissy from the stares, the whispers, the micro aggressions or outright slurs, and discriminatory treatment. It’s heartbreaking, and so often I feel like we failed her in many ways.

Hector is a man who lights up a room; everybody loves him. His parents emigrated from Mexico when he was young, and he is all about hard work, family and service to his country. I knew he would be the perfect husband for Jenny — kind, loving and attentive.

In 2016 I attended the swearing-in ceremony for his promotion to sergeant with the Chicago Police Department. I was so proud and happy for him that day, and it was such a wonderful family celebration. Today he seems sad and bewildered. It’s a dangerous job, and he struggles with the animosity and vile treatment he receives on the streets. I find myself wondering how we went from that day in 2016 to today in such a short time. My heart breaks for him as well.

As a family we work hard to appreciate and embrace our differences and opposing viewpoints and recognize that we are all striving for happiness and a sense of belonging. We can love each other even when our feet are firmly planted on the opposite sides of an issue.

My desire is that, as a family, as a workplace and as a country, we can better embrace our differences. That we can all work harder to open our eyes and place ourselves in someone else’s shoes for just a moment. That as we struggle to be heard, so too we endeavor to listen and understand. That ultimately we all recognize each of us is human, and we’re not that different after all.

“If you understand each other you will be kind to each other.” John Steinbeck

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council of Edward-Elmhurst Health: We are DRIVEN to create a culture in which all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual-orientations, physical abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds can meet, share, learn, and flourish in an accepting environment. By creating platforms and opportunities that allow us to come together, we can begin to know and understand each other. And through better understanding, we can effectively meet the needs of our diverse patients and deliver on our mission.

By creating platforms and opportunities that allow us to come together, we can begin to know and understand each other. Read our Voices of Diversity blog.

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